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  • Writer's pictureEdward Medina

Grand Hotel, The Musical: A Review

With a deeply engrossing book by Luther Davis and the beautiful music and lyrics by Robert Wright and George Forrest, the legend that is Grand Hotel, The Musical has reappeared once more to grace the New York City Center stage in all its glory. Reincarnation is the hallmark of this storied blockbuster. It was first a novel by Vicki Baum in 1929, it then became a star studded legendary MGM film in 1932, its first sadly unsuccessful attempt at a Los Angeles theatrical production followed in 1958, but it wasn’t until Tommy Tune breathed life into this in-depth multi-character story for a Broadway run in 1989 did Grand Hotel come to glittering life.

The setting is Berlin and the year is 1928. The roaring twenties are still in vogue and the world has yet to feel the sting of the Great Depression. On this particular weekend, a particular set of characters make their way through the lobby of the Grand Hotel. As they each check in they have no idea that their lives will be forever intertwined.

Their stories are told to us by the hotel’s unofficial resident doctor Colonel Otternschlag. He’s seen it all because even though he always decides to check out he invariably decides to stay for one more day. In this role the very talented William Ryall, a member of not only the original Broadway production but various incarnations since, serves as a more than fitting tour guide. An aging and failing ballerina Elizaveta Grushinskaya, danced beautifully by acclaimed ballerina Irina Dvorovenko, arrives for yet another tiring tour. There’s perpetual unpaid guest Baron Felix von Gaigern who’s more of a broke and down on his luck thief played with romance and flair by James Snyder.

The voices and talents of the principle cast are all equally powerful but it’s the fatally ill bookkeeper Otto Kringelein, who is seeking a few last moments of living a life of grandeur, and the young typist Flaemmchen, who fantasizes about escape and becoming an American film star, that steal the show here. The performances of Brandon Uranowitz and Helene Yorke in those roles are both funny and touching and can’t help but bring a tear to the eye as they slowly find each other.

The Wright and Forrest songbook, made possible by a show saving assist with additional music and lyrics from theatre icon Maury Yeston, is twenty-four numbers long providing several opportunities for the company to exhibit their considerable skills. The tap dancing duo of James T. Lane and Daniel Yearwood in “Maybe My Baby” are absolutely delightful. “Girl in The Mirror” lets Helene Yorke’s charms shine. Brandon Uranowitz and James Snyder, along with the aforementioned Lane and Yearwood accompanied by the ensemble, tear things up with the raucous antics of “We’ll Take a Glass Together”. The love ballad “Love Can’t Happen” once again highlights Snyder, this time with leading lady Irina Dvorovenko, provides a sincere tug at the heartstrings. And the beautifully staged “Bolero” tango, directed and danced by Junior Cervila and Guadalupe Garcia, is a dark and delicious treat.

Grand Hotel is a luxurious and luscious cavalcade of theatrical wonders. The moment Ken Billington’s deep, rich lightening hits Allen Moyer’s gorgeous set you instantly know you're in for a treat. Moyer pays homage to this show’s history by once again putting the supremely gifted orchestra, led by Rob Berman, on stage and above the performers, he also retained two chandeliers which marked the original 1989 set, and while there was no revolving door for the characters to sashay through, a large gold framed mirror placed upstage on the upper tier gave an even better way for them to all seemingly emerge. Inhabiting this world of color and light are the equally lush costumes of designer Linda Cho. Her work accentuates and solidifies all the surrounding splendor.

The same remembrances can be said of Josh Rhodes’ masterful direction and equally powerful choreography. Rhodes gives a nod to original director Tommy Tune’s gold painted ballroom chairs that helped to enrich the minimalist world of its predecessor. Rhodes also enlists the aide of an almost ever-present chorus to not only sing and dance their hearts out but to also build an entire world with the use of those chairs and in some cases even their own bodies.

This production of Grand Hotel is not a perfect show. There are a few things that don't gel, but they're mere quibbles. Every Encore! show could use a bit more time to achieve true perfection. But the tight rehearsal schedule and immediate on demand delivery provides an electric energy that makes the best productions in their twenty-five seasons leave a lasting impression. In this case Grand Hotel, The Musical shines and stands apart as a true legendary vehicle should.

There's a mystery that comes with an exceptionally exquisite revival. A kind of ghostly reminiscence that lingers from the magic that brought the original production to life. This new Grand Hotel is haunted in that sublime way. As the character's first appear, for as long as they stay, and until they all check out you feel their alchemical energy pulse through you. You feel rewarded to have witnessed them again, even if it's just briefly, and you truly wish they could stay, for just one more day.

New York City Center Main Stage 131 West 55th St, New York, NY 212.581.1212 Mar 21 – 25, 2018

From an original post on TheaterScene.


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